No one's suggesting that Murray Hill is Manhattan's answer to Flushing, Queens, as a destination for true Chinese cooking. But the arrival of Hunan Manor last month on Lexington Avenue has Chowhounds buzzing. This newcomer has family ties to Flushing's Hunan House, a strong hound favorite, and early reports say it's the real thing.
scoopG observes an encouraging sign: meats cured in-house. A good example is preserved beef with white peppers, a spicy, crunchy stir-fry of smoked, dried meat with garlic and scallions, strewn with dried chiles. Chairman Mao's red-braised pork is irresistible, scoop promises: chunks of juicy pork belly cooked slowly with star anise, ginger, garlic, and mushrooms. buttertart was delighted by pickled beans with ground pork and mung bean noodles, which offered a gorgeous contrast of flavors and textures, and also enjoyed Hunan pickled cabbage and both beef and lamb with hot peppers, especially the latter. Other smart orders include steamed tilapia with chiles; tender ox tongue and tripe in spicy sauce; Hunan-style mustard leaf, sautéed with garlic and chiles; and earthy, homey peppers with eggs.
Manhattan hounds once had to venture into Queens (or, sometimes, Brooklyn) to explore less familiar Chinese cuisines. And they did—becoming, for a change, the visiting bridge-and-tunnel crowd. Now the ground is shifting. While Flushing remains New York's capital of Chinese dining, outposts of some of the neighborhood's best regional restaurants—from Xian, Henan, and now Hunan—have crossed the water to Manhattan. But don't expect Flushing-style authenticity from top to bottom on Hunan Manor's menu. "The downside is plenty of American-Chinese clunkers," scoop warns—sesame chicken, broccoli beef, General Tso's chicken, and their ilk. Stick to the Hunan specialties, he adds, and "you'll do just fine."
Hunan Manor [Murray Hill]
339 Lexington Avenue (between E. 39th and 40th streets), Manhattan